Posts Tagged ‘Chamber Pop’

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PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Monday, December 10, 2012
PJ Harvey (2011)

PJ Harvey (2011)

It’s a PJ kinda week/month.

Second album to review by Harvey, and I am still floored by how good she is. It wasn’t like that at first. I thought this album was kinda weird.

Then again, I’ve listened to lots of albums that were weird and they ended up being some of my favorites. Let England Shake has really grown on me. It might like it better than To Bring You My Love. In fact, I think it is.

Stylistically, it’s much different from her past work. It’s sedate, refined, and apocryphal. She uses a lot of imagery that evokes WWI, and war in general. It’s sort of folky and protesty, but not really. Most of the songs feature jangly guitar and piano, and it feels very minimalistic and bare bones (in a good way). Harvey’s voice goes high here, soaring way into the soprano (“On Battleship Hill”). That husky voice of albums past is mostly gone here, and the range really shows her versatility.

The lyrics and mostly somber attitude of the songs make this a contemplative album. The albums carry themes of death, and they lyrics are downright chilling. (“The scent of thyme carried on the wind/Stings my face into remembering/Cruel nature has won again/Cruel nature has won again”).

Harvey’s lyrics here are at her best, in my opinion. She captures the sadness of how pointless all wars seem years after they happen. Wars always seem so important to the people fighting them at the time. It is only looking back, years later, that we wonder what it was all for. The wise among us wonder what it is all for now. It makes me wonder how future generations will judge all the conflicts our political leaders lead us into; the same way, perhaps, we judge the conflicts of WWI as pointless and futile in retrospect?

I will definitely be listening to this a lot more. PJ has release perhaps her greatest treasure with this one. It’s rare that an album makes me think as much as this.

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Other Lives – Tamer Animals

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Tamer Animals (2211)

Tamer Animals (2211)

I first heard/saw these guys as the opening act for Radiohead earlier this year in Dallas. Even then I was very impressed with their talent, but never gave Tamer Animals a listen until last week.

In my opinion, these guys are the best act in Oklahoma. They deserve much more attention than they currently have. Hailing from Stillwater, they bring that Oklahoma red dirt flavor to blends of folk, indie, with a tinge of arena rock. The music is expansive, even hypnotic. There’s an almost holy aura to it, like a Gregorian chant. It’s really hard to place, but Jesse Tabish’s voice sort of reminds me of Paul Banks or Ian Curtis, and their atmosphere is reminiscent of Radiohead, if Radiohead were earthy and American. There is something soulful and surreal in their delivery.

Besides the usual instruments of drums, bass, and guitar (mostly, if not all, acoustic) there is excellent interspersing of piano and strings.

If you haven’t listened to these guys yet, don’t miss this.

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Arcade Fire – Funeral

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Funeral (2004)

This is one of the only albums I can think of (maybe the only one) that infuses and intermixes happiness, sadness, childhood memories, and intensity that can be, at the same time, uplifting and heartbreaking, mysterious, and so full of love. This is an album, every time I listen to it (because no matter how many times I listen to it, it never gets old, but is always new, like love), that it fills me with every emotion known to man and nothing contradicts. It draws out in me a longing that the Germans call sehnsucht. It’s like trying to remember the best dream in the world, but failing, having the perfect thought or realization, but being unable to wrap your mind around it or put it into practice, or the way you feel when you remember what it was like to look into the eyes of your loved one who is now gone, for whatever reason.

This album represents everything that is beautiful to me – about finding beauty in the unexpected. It’s like I realize that life doesn’t make sense, and that’s okay for some weird reason. I think, most of all, it reminds me of childhood, when we were too young to realize that our dreams were impossible, and because of this, they were possible. I remember, when I was a child, I liked to try to write books and draw pictures and pretend, and everything was fresh and new – where the forest by my house, probably just an acre in size, might as well have been the dark forest of ancient Germany that would take days to explore and tromp around in. It reminds me of my first loves, my first crushes, the awkwardness and beauty of growing up, the tragedy of growing up, and the slow pains of what it is to lose your childhood and innocence, and the loss of pure friendships, which seem to become harder and harder to find as one grows older (when one’s heart grows colder, and when you can’t see that it’s still alive).

That’s what Funeral is to me. It’s like when you grow up and become an adult, there’s a funeral held for your childhood, and you’re the only one that’s invited, looking at your coffin being carried out by the ghosts of your dreams, which are buried with it. Society expects you to put away your childhood and be the perfect adult, and not do anything “childish,” like pretend, love, or laugh too much, or blow milk out of your nose for fun, or what have you, so you can become crotchety old man or woman who frowns upon young upstarts who do the same thing. But in Arcade Fire and with Funeral, there is this duality of joy and loss, of remembering childhood and all its possibilities, and looking back and realizing that things can never be the same. It’s like how the greatest misery is rehearsing memories of happiness , realizing that all those things you were no longer are. I love this album, and within each song, so brilliantly written and executed, I hear echoes of the human soul that is evident throughout all ages, of our struggles and beauty, longings, and love.

Funeral, to me, is a reminder that life is as beautiful and lovely as it is sad. It is not one, or the other, but both. What’s weird is I have all these impressions, and I’ve only been listening to this for a short while (perhaps a month or two). This is one of those rare albums where I love every song – I have no favorite, and each speaks to me in a different way. From the excitement of Neighborhood 1, to learning how to try (for all your life), I love this album. That is all I can say. What’s strange is – I have yet to listen to anything else by Arcade Fire – and even if I never did for the rest of my life, I would be completely happy knowing this album. It’s like when I listen to it, I’m drunk on it, and is a complete and utter eargasm (nay – a DOUBLE eargasm). Yeah. That’s right.

On that note…yeah! I don’t just love this album – I’m in love with it. And I hope the magic never fades.